Travel journal - Edinburgh part two

One of the best decision we've ever made. Before going back home for good, we decided to crash in mbak Tika's house for two weeks - exploring Scotland with minimal budget.

Second time coming, it felt familiar, it made my heart fluttered and it put a smile in my face.. Although we brought tons of luggage and it was dramatical on how we survived moving our five huge luggages by train - plus a bulky stroller, an oversized laptop bag, two camera bags, and a toddler. Well, that's another story..

Scotland for a transition before coming back to reality. Although we had to spare our time to settle paperworks before really moving out of UK and for Yos to prepare his portfolio (for job application), we still had our best time there - thanks to Mbak Tika (of course!) for the hospitality. Second time coming, we were more relax than before; we didn't have to be in a rush to cross the list of places we wanted to visit. If we could, then we would; even if we didn't make it, that's still okay. And in the end, we didn't stick to the list. Some places are new places we found online, or we just got inspiration on what we desired to visit.

My personal favorite is Portobello beach - it wasn't even on the list. It's located more in a suburb, but it's a lovely spot when we got bored with castles or city area. Two miles of sands with sea-view, cafes, playgrounds, and several entertainments make this beach our favorite. When we alighted at the bus stop, we were disoriented, because rows of shop were welcoming us, plus there was no sign of a beach. Of course, then GPS saved us. But, even after we found the beach location (which was a few blocks behind the shops), we decided to walk along the shops, turned out it was an interesting walk and window-shopping. Small shops with quirky collections, middle eastern food, vintage artshop, hipster artshop, architect firm, ice cream, bakeries, cafes, and many more. It's much more interesting than city areas' shops, to be honest.

To reach the beach, we had to walk pass residential blocks in small streets. Imagining your way is like a common walk in a street, with houses blocking your view to the beach, but you still can smell the salt from the sea. Curious. I envied the house, they had their 'secret' way to the sea and their backyard is the beach, how lovely. And when we finally can see the beach, it was like opening our blocked-eyes to the limitless horizon. And of course, immediately, Iola wanted to go off the stroller, she wanted to play in the large sandpit :) And for me, it was really nice to see a proper beach, after a year isolated in between hills.

Since our first visit to Edinburgh, we've been wanting to go in to Scottish Parliament Building (designed by Enric Miralles). The previous trip, we didn't have a chance because of the limited time. But, this time, it's on top of the list and become our "first thing first". We were impressed even by looking at it from afar, we took a moment to go around the front area before really going in - adoring the details of facade, the poetic entrance canopy, and the water feature.

Entering it was even better, we were wowed on how they make such a formal building in casual way. Its position as a governmental building is so important, and yet, people (including tourists) are allowed to enter the building. They make an impression that the building is owned by society, although many political businesses are happening inside. Of course, not all areas are open to public, only a few that is allowed to be visited by visitors, due to its confidentiality and safety. But, the highlight is: we are allowed to go inside the Debating Chamber and watch the political elites having their debates! It is an eye-opening act by the Scottish, that they make this political/governmental routines as public consumption. There is no hidden agenda, because people are free to watch from the balcony.

We spent our other relaxed day by exploring areas near The University of Edinburgh, while Yos were mesmerized by the 'coolness' of the uni. Not sure whether he regretted her decision to choose Sheffield over Edinburgh, or not; but despite his feeling, we had our sparks there. Good location, good ambience, and pretty environment. Our main purpose was to visit Chapel of St. Albert The Great for the sake of the great design. The chapel was located behind the row of houses (one of the house is where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle lived for 4 years) in uni complex, we didn't easily find the chapel because its entrance way is from behind the main road. If you are a design enthusiast, you have to come and visit this chapel, a nice design they have there :)

From the chapel, we walked a bit to reach The Meadows, the infamous park in Edinburgh because of the strategic location. We came here for the playground, and it pays off. The playground is very good, with sandpit and flying fox!

And from The Meadows, we walked a bit far to Quartermile. We came here without a knowledge that this area is designed by starchitect, were welcomed by a large-and-still-empty office building blocks, in monochrome color scheme (greyish black). The office blocks were in grids in one side of the street, and when we walked a bit further down, there were an open plaza with old buildings surrounded the plaza. The thing that caught our eyes was how those old buildings were extended with new modern massing, making it looked new without the need to demolish the original building. City of Edinburgh tries very hard to preserve their heritage treasures, and they deserve standing applause for the efforts. Beside the office blocks, there is another cool stuff across the street: row of houses that is alternated between old and new (Simpson Loan). These high end apartment buildings were used to be a part of Royal's Edinburgh Infirmary.

Another finding was: Rose Street, which is running parallel from Princes Street and George Street. Seems like this street was packed with tourists, as well as Princes Street, due to its location. Lots of cafes and pubs, and small shops, with its pretty ambience. Our afternoon stroll was at its best, when it was almost sunset and people were relaxing outdoor, smoking, chatting, and drinking beers.

We had a lazy day, almost stayed at home the whole day and ended up going out to the nearby park. Inverleith Park, a major park that is located at the opposite of Royal Botanical Garden. With a playground on one corner, a large field (for football, rugby, and cricket), and a large pond, it offers a nice option for a quiet afternoon walk.

Didn't get enough of Edinburgh for sure, there are several places from the list that we didn't visit. But we had a blast, it was a superb stay and unforgettable. When we took off, it was a windy and cold morning, felt like Edinburgh let us feel the last breeze before Southeast Asia's heat :) Tapadh leibh, Edinburgh!

Traveling tips:
*Save your money by buying Ridacard for traveling with buses and trams around Edinburgh if you are planning to stay for at least one week. Find out more via this link and this link.
**Make your time to visit South Queensferry, where the three iconic bridges (The Forth Bridges) of Edinburgh are located.
***Pop in to Wellington Coffee for brunch. They have one of the best scone (and coffee) in town! :)


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